Dogs are man’s best friend and we love them dearly. We feed them, we take care of them, and we play with them.
However, sometimes dogs can be aggressive and attack other people or animals without reason.
We find ourselves asking why my dog is aggressive?
Is there a way to control this aggression?
What causes it in the first place?
This article will explore these questions as well as give tips on how to deal with an aggressive dog.
Stopping dog aggression is seriously important for keeping you (and your pooch) safe.
Dogs bite 4.7 million people in the US every year.
So you need to know how to deal with it when/before it happens.
Different types of dog aggression towards people
If you have a dog of any size, one that is aggressive towards people can be a huge worry. Aggression is not always easy to spot and the consequences of being bitten by an aggressive dog are serious – both for the person dealing with the aggression and their family members, as well as for innocent bystanders.
It’s important to know what types of aggression exist so you can identify it quickly if your pet exhibits those behaviors around humans.
.Aggressiveness towards animals and people are two separate issues though. When it comes to humans, there are another two types of hostility.
· Dog aggression towards strangers
· Dog aggression towards owner/family
Again, these need to be dealt with separately. What you do depends a lot on the focus on your dog’s hostility and the seriousness of that hostility.
My dog is aggressive towards strangers – what do I do?
If you are reading this, then you or someone that knows you are worried about your dog’s behavior towards strangers.
It can be frustrating not knowing what to do, but thankfully there are many different things that can help with the problem.
Some of these include changing up food brands and types for their diet, getting them used to new people gradually through positive reinforcement training classes with a professional trainer, and staying on top of any medical problems they may have (such as allergies).
With patience and time, most issues like these will improve over time.
Some dog aggression signs:
• Showing teeth
These behaviors could be because of the dog’s breed, genetics, or attitude towards strangers. It could also be just because they are unfamiliar (and scared) of them. Aggression can often be a symptom of fear—and, in fact, often is. So making sure your pooch isn’t scared (or never becomes scared) of strangers is extremely important.
How do we do this though?
Socialize your dog: how to socialize a dog with humans
What is socialisation?
Well, socializing your dog is exposing them to new experiences in the world: new people, new friends, and new strangers. Properly introducing them to people so that they aren’t scared of them and can learn how to be around them.
Your dog relies 100% on you and you control its relationship with the world, so it is 100% your responsibility to show them the right things early on. Make sure you take your pooch out and gradually greet them to strangers and different parts of the world so they don’t lash out in later life.
Start early: socialize your dog as soon as you can
Knowing how to socialize a dog with humans can be tricky (especially during lockdown). The rule here though: the earlier, the better. 4 weeks – 4 months is the prime time to socialize a pup—it’s the time they’re old enough to interact with the world but young enough to change their relationship with it.
At this stage, it’s more about introducing healthy habits in you and your dog rather than specified training. A great way to do this is through group puppy-training classes. Lots of strange dogs mean lots of strange owners so it’s a great controlled environment to socialize them with professional help.
Don’t just limit it to dog classes though: make this a part of your life. Walk your dog with your friends or people that it does trust. The more people your pup meets early on—babies, old age pensioners, police officers, cyclists, clowns—the more comfortable, the less scared (and less aggressive) they will become around people.
But if your dog is older and already aggressive it’s not too late.
How to socialize an already aggressive dog
After that, find out what is causing or triggering your dog’s aggression towards strangers. What strangers do they become aggressive towards? When? Why? To stop the violence and properly socialize them with people, you need to:
- Avoid triggering your dog (don’t put your dog in situations where it’s getting too aggressive by barking, snarling, or snapping).
- Gradually expose it to things that are triggering its aggression at a safe and controlled distance. If it’s barking or getting too hostile, stop and start again another time.
- When your dog doesn’t act aggressively towards it’s trigger, use positive reinforcement (give it treats!) and lots of praise. Over time, your dog will become better and less aggressive.
But what if it’s fine around strangers, but it’s getting hostile with your family?
Why is my dog suddenly aggressive towards me and my family?
Seeing your dog snarling at another family member is terrifying. You want to be able to introduce your dog to your family and baby safely. Again, there are two common causes for dog aggression towards its owners (though these aren’t necessarily the only ones). Your pooch is possibly…
• Not happy with the treatment it’s getting, or
• Resource guarding
If your pooch is being unhappy with how it’s being handled, it’s a straightforward but often long process. Make sure you are treating your dog right with proper nutrition, exercise, care, and meet its needs by giving it enough attention and care. Give it proper grooming and handle your pet how it likes to be handled. Dogs don’t like it when you hug them, sit on them, or get too up in their space, for example.
Although it’s better to start early, it’s still never too late. But do consider getting the guidance of a professional trainer if your pet is already hostile.
For resource guarding, you might need to look deeper into the way your dog looks at you and its place within the family.
What is resource guarding?
Resource guarding is aggressive behavior trying to protect what dogs believe is their own.
Essentially they are overly possessive. This could be towards food, treats, bones, toys, their bed, or even you. To solve this, it’s all in the training.
Because your dog socializes as part of a hierarchy, you need to establish yourself as the head of the family, so it respects your boundaries and knows its own. Use frequent obedience work to create this relationship while also desensitizing it away from the thing that it’s protecting. This keeps your dog well-trained and knowing that you’re in command while also not being a threat.
If your dog is still being aggressive, or if you’re not sure what to do with an aggressive dog that bites, you should start a dog aggression training regime.
Aggressive dog behaviour training run-down
Here’s a quick run-down on how to train your dog to become less aggressive towards people.
• Go to a local qualified dog-trainer
• Don’t punish your dog
• Brush up on canine psychology/body language, so you understand what it’s telling you and why
• Properly introduce and socialize it to humans
• Train it regularly: do short and productive obedience sessions (15 minutes, 2-3x per day)
Take home message
Dogs show aggression for a reason: they’re warning you to back off or they’re saying they don’t like something (or in this case, someone). Make sure you find the reason behind your dog’s aggression. Socialize and train your dog to become calmer around people.
And after that, you’ll hopefully have stopped your dog’s destructive behavior forever.
For more guides on dog training techniques and how to deal with problems on dog behavior (like chewing), check out Secrets to Dog Training. It’s the complete guide for dog ownership and is designed to speed up your dog’s learning.